Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Monday – A good day today

Sunday morning Roger was away attending a 60th birthday party for his uncle Steve May. Steve is a long tome friend of ours who preaches at the church in Sundridge Ontario. Anyhow, I filled in for Roger – my sermon was based on our experiences in March in Pascagoula. – using this opening paragraph of Dicken’s Tale of 2 cities to lead to some contrasts that I perceived in the pre- and post- Katrina attitudes of (some of) the Christians I had met there.

Sunday p.m. we had our usual LIFE group study looking at how we can encourage one another through “random acts of kindness”. It was a good time of sharing and I learned some interesting things about people I have known for years.

However, despite these good things, I really didn’t have a very good day. Friday I shared that I was in a slump. I don’t know about anyone else but it continues to amaze me that I can know it is happening. I can think through logically what I need to do to “turn it around”, I can even do those things and yet it is almost inevitable that I have to really “crash and burn” before I can get back on the road and those closest to me – particularly Linda end up bearing the brunt of my angst (That’s odd I just tried to look angst up in the dictionary to be sure it meant what I thought and I couldn’t find it. – ah well it will have to mean what I want it to mean and I hope it means the same thing to you!!).

Anyhow, my anxiety and tendency to respond angrily to minor events continued through the weekend. It came to a head Sunday night and the storm has now passed. I‘m now “normal” again (although my normal leaves a lot of room for God to work on me). I have concluded that the “root cause” this time was that I’m still working through the “grieving” process of giving up my work life to move into retirement. I said to a friend that, as much as people tell you that you that retirement can be like losing a loved one – I didn’t really believe it until I’ve started to experience it. I think I’ve been in denial and now the reality is coming home.
I have talked about the need to “re-invent” myself but I haven’t really worked out what this new way of living is really all about. Perhaps that is a good metaphor for our Christian walk.

I do know that the answer to working through these “ditches” in my life comes when I finally turn it over to Him and stop trying to fix it myself. Of course God gave us intelligence, directions for living and that ability to make choices – so turning it over to him doesn’t mean lying down in a corner and saying OK God – fix it. – but it also doesn’t mean that I have to figure it out all on my own and be perfect in how I react to every situation. His grace and forgiveness is there when I mess it up. It is that confidence in His love that ultimately provides me with the power to turn away from anger & despair and to return with Paul to “being content no matter what life throws at me” (paraphrase of Philippians 4).

So Monday, Linda & I decided we should each take the day to do what we wanted to do for ourselves and finish the painting later in the week. I had heard about the need for drivers to take seniors to/from doctor’s appointments or shopping. and I had an appointment at the Red Cross to complete the application process so I did that.

On my way home I stopped by to see my Dad. My Mom & he were married May 29, 1937 and spent 62 years together before she died in 1999. So I wanted to spend some time with him because it is a day when he misses her a lot. I was going to take him golfing but he had already been out with his friend Don and it was hot (I see from John Dobbs blog that it was in the 90’s in Mississippi yesterday) – well we hit the high 80’s.

Instead of golf, I had him come over for the latter part of the afternoon and we played cribbage – for once I actually beat him 2 games straight. Usually, he wins them all. I grilled some pork chops and roasted some potatoes on the BBQ and with Linda’s coaching prepared the rest of our dinner. After dinner, Goldie , Morris & Debbie dropped by – they were in the Sault for some reason – I think in part that they too wanted to spend some time with Dad.

Linda spent a good part of the morning shopping at Value Village – it turned out to be 50% off and she had a ball and came home with a bunch of small stuff -pictures, yard ornaments, etc. some for home and some to decorate the classrooms at the building. She ran into my sister-in-law Marilyn and had lunch with her at Swiss Chalet.

I also had time in the early afternoon to get caught up on a bunch of small things – doing my household chores, dealing with an income tax issue, cleaning up some backlogged email. Overall it was a very good day – despite the fact that there were a couple of distressing things that I encountered.

Kyle Lansdell who has been working part-time as youth minister and my nephew Ken had driven a group of young people to Mackinaw Island for an outing on Sunday. They took bicycles so Kyle was driving his Dad’s truck. Ken was driving Rob’s van. They had a great time to-gether but unfortunately, as they were leaving the parking lot to come home Kyle got in a spot were he had to backup. Ken had been following him and had stopped behind him – well you guessed the truck hit the van and crunched the fender. (Ford’s are tough so no damage to the truck).

It was a tough thing for both Ken & Rob (Ken's Dad) to have something like that happen when they were doing a good thing – exacerbated by the fact that the van was almost new (and that last July 1 someone ran a stop sign and demolished it’s predecessor). I really felt sorry for all involved.

I also was able to make contact with a lady from our church who had been absent for a couple of weeks and discovered she had decided to go elsewhere. It is always sad when someone doesn’t feel their needs are being met and chooses to look elsewhere. I think honesty demands that we acknowledge that we have failed in some way in encouraging and supporting that individual. At the same time people are accountable for their own choices and we can’t control those choices. I pray that she keeps her focus on following Jesus and that she finds a group of Christians to meet with that can fill the part of her spiritual journey that she was apparently missing

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Birthday and some Anniversaries

This is a "catchup" posting covering some things I didn't get to last week.

You must be getting older when your youngest sibling has just turned 50. I mentioned before that I had made a trip to Beamsville May 13-15 – in part to travel with my brother Rob to a medical checkup but also to help my youngest brother Lawrence celebrate his 50th birthday on May 15.

My parents - Mervyn & Jean - brought 8 children into this world over an 18 year period from 1938 to 1956. -- 3 girls and 5 boys. I’m in the middle of the boys and in the middle 2 of the 8 (the middle of 8 is between 4 & 5 – so my younger sister Ruby and I – at numbers 4 & 5 -- are the middle children).

The picture, which was taken at the surprise party on his birthday, shows Lawrence (at the left) with his 2 sons (Mervyn) Lee and Gregory (at the back) and his wife Lily and our Dad in the front. His daughter Lene, her husband Bruce and granddaughter Kahlan live in Pampa TX so weren’t able to be there but they did call during the party to say a surprise second Happy Birthday (having already called earlier in the day to avoid creating suspicion that more was coming later).

We managed to completely surprise him by having a “fake” birthday gathering on Sunday at my sister Ruby’s house. The real reason was that it was Mother’s Day and since Rob, Dad & I, my oldest sister Goldie and her husband Morris were in the area – she had invited Lawrence's family and Goldie's son son James and his children Chris, Shaun & Sarah. -- 17 in total -- for Sunday dinner. Ruby’s husband Art was traveling and her youngest son was enroute to Papua New Guinea so it really wasn’t much of a Mother’s day rest for her. She said she was going to celebrate Mother’s day on Father’s day

Last Sunday was our monthly potluck at church. It also turned into a anniversary celebration to honor Ralph and Gladys Forfar on their 60th anniversary (May 24th.). At the same time, we acknowledged Richard & Ilse Herzog who celebrated their 59th anniversary on May 17 and my brother Rob & his wife Marilyn who celebrated their 27th on May 21.

Ralph & Gladys have been part of the Pinehill church for longer than I have been around the Sault (which goes back over 40 years). And the same is true of Richard & Ilse Herzog.

Both couples were supportive and helpful to me as a young man fresh from the country when I came to the “big” city in my late teens to work for a summer at the steel plant. They also befriended Linda (before we were married) when I was away at school and she was in Nursing training here in the Sault. We left the area after we married while I was finishing university studies. We moved to the Sault in 1974 and being a part of a church family with both these couples who have devoted their lives to serving God is a continual blessing.

Ralph was the person in charge of the young people’s class when I first here (in the early 60's)and he provided a lot of wisdom to a young man just starting out. He is a forester and he is now in his late 80’s but is still active planting trees. Gladys, for several years, collected stuffed animals, cleaned them and shipped them to the Dominican Republic. She has been less active recently due to various health problems.

Richard and Ilse came to Canada from Germany following WWII. They have been part of the church here ever since. They have set a standard of commitment to worship and service to the church that is difficult to match. Richard served as an elder for many years and he continues to minister in his song leading. Ilse was a Sunday school teacher and mentor to many ladies. She is well known for her hospitality having many friends and visitors into her home for superb German food. Her knowledge of the Bible is legendary. They both still spend a morning once every few weeks helping at the local soup kitchen.

Rob & Marilyn were married in Burnaby BC. Linda & I traveled to the wedding with our youngest (Melissa) as a babe in arms. Rob has worked at Algoma Steel since the early 70’s and plans to retire next year.

Marilyn is a school teacher and after raising their family has worked with Program Read – a literacy program for adults. Both Rob & Marilyn are active in the church. Rob has served as Treasurer for many years and Marilyn co-leads the Sunday school program and teaches most of the time.

Their son Ken is still at home. He graduated from Algoma University in Geography and returned to Sault College for a diploma in GIS but hasn't yet been sucessful in finding work in his field. Patricia (Trish) graduated from the Education program at Nipissing University last spring and is working (half days) with the kindergarten program that operates on the campus of Great Lakes Christian college in Beamsville. She works in a video store the rest of the time to earn enough to cover her living expenses.

It is a great thing to have a bother & sister-in-law so close by who share many of the same values and interests together.

Well that's a wrap on the "special ocassions" for now

God Bless

Friday, May 26, 2006

Promises – Discipline, Focus & Balance (May 26)

It has been a week since I last posted an entry ….

This past Sunday Roger spoke on the part of the Sermon on the mount where Jesus said “Let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no”. He made the point that the underlying principle here was that God expects absolute honesty in all of our dealings. The people Jesus was speaking to had many practices to establish the degree to which they could be untruthful without being “liars” depending on the type of oath that was used. – and we do that today – "If I cross my fingers then I can fib".

Have you ever heard yourself say – “to be perfectly honest with you” or “to tell the truth”. Over the past couple of years I have tried to remove those phrases from my language. When I heard myself saying this, I would stop and say (something like) “Oops – That seems to be saying that I haven’t been being honest with you before and I want to be honest all the time so I’m going start over and drop that phrase). While I occasionally have failed in this, it has helped me to be more conscious of always being truthful so I wouldn’t have to come back and correct something later when the “stretching” of the truth becomes apparent. (which we cover up by saying “I didn’t really intend to say that” or “What I really meant to say was”)

The thrust of Roger’s lesson was that we should be so committed to being truthful and honest in all our dealings that any oath is unnecessary – rather than the lesson we often take which is that we shouldn’t use oaths. He also gave some practical approaches to help us deal with the reality that “telling the truth even when it hurts”. Things like being honest about the fact that we do struggle with truthfulness and being careful about our promises.

This brings me back to the beginning of this posting “It has been a week ..).

I could rationalize by saying I was too busy but the reality is that I was in a slump. There is a long-standing “bad habit” in my approach to life that has to deal with my ability to make and keep promises to myself (and others). I call it my “buffet table” approach to making promises. There are only a few people I know (my wife being one) who can go through the line at a church pot luck and only take as much as she needs and avoid the things that are really not good for you. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach (or at least bigger than what my stomach should be getting because I usually do eat it all!!).

My approach to work has always been that way. When someone says this needs to be done, I’m the first to say “I’ll do it” – and then the juggling begins – what is going to get done – what can I avoid – etc. etc. My favorite line for many years was “If it wasn’t for the last minute nothing would get done”. If I didn’t have a crisis of 3 or 4 things that had to be done “right now” I would put off starting stuff and “play around” with things that I didn’t have to do until things got so bad I couldn’t ignore them any more.

The reality with this approach was that my life was filled with never started, half done or poorly done projects although I worked hard enough and long enough under pressure to meet the commitments that were of most importance – those that would allow me to advance my career, those that would defuse a family crisis – etc . and I also became a good judge of who would and wouldn’t accept my lame “the dog ate my homework” type of excuses when things were late. One consequence of this was that I often spent more time on the "urgent things" rather than making time for the "important things"

Several years ago I met Terry Miller who is a consultant that I now consider to be a friend. Terry coached me about making and keeping promises – rather than trying to manage priorities. The basic idea was always know what you have on your plate and what it is going to take to fulfill those commitments. Focus on the actions that must be taken each day to meet those commitments and when you are looking at a new commitment only “pick it up and put it on your plate” if you can do it without interfering with other commitments. And if you can’t -- either say No! or, if that isn’t possible, renegotiate some other commitment to allow you to do it. This is a very powerful approach to dealing with life rather than the normal approach of the being stressed out by trying to juggle 10 balls when you are only capable of juggling 5.

When I had the discipline to manage my commitments (i.e. always ask can I do this and still meet my other promises?), kept focused on the daily review of all of the commitments and progress and took action to “renegotiate” when I could no longer meet some FUTURE commitment because “life happened” , I could keep balance in my life –

However, as I have often said there is a big difference between knowing and doing. It seemed that I just couldn’t stand success so, every so often, when it was working well, I would lose my discipline of managing commitments, start focusing on “today’s project” and I would lose my “balance” – things would begin to pile up, deadlines would be missed. My reaction was to make it even worse by spending time on frivolous things like TV or computer games rather than biting the bullet and doing the work needed to get back into balance. I would get depressed and moody and stressed often without really knowing why. Eventually - usually when I was really in trouble, I would finally recognize what happened, pull out Terry’s notes or give him a call and get myself back on track.

Well, that is what has been going on this past week. The church painting project took more time than I thought it would. I wasn’t watching my commitments and a bunch of small things started to pile up, I had a sermon to prepare for Sunday because Roger was away and I just stopped doing anything useful when we weren’t at the church painting. That included the blog (which may be questionable as a useful activity but it is part of a commitment I have made to myself because I find it helpful to write these things down and I hope that there may be some value to others who may read this.)

To-day I’m in the process of regaining my balance. I’ve written out the list of commitments --- I’ve sorted out which ones I need to change and I have done the Nike thing (jo do it!) on a bunch of small things. There is less clutter and more reality in the current list – Life is good.

God Bless

Friday, May 19, 2006

Watching paint dry (May 17-18)

When we went to Pascagoula our first big project was painting the Kelly house. I remarked then that this was one of my least favorite things. Well, somehow that seems to be where God is leading us right now. We have been occupied the past several with a painting project. I’m working on saying “Oh boy more painting - my favorite thing (you might have to go back to my entry about Max Lucado’s lesson - around April 2 - to get this.

We are painting over paneling, which has required that we do a “high adherence” primer first followed by a finish coat. There are also several doorways and doors to (re)paint.

Wednesday we took a break from 1 to 4:30 in order to go to the funeral home. It was a long line but we were able to express our support for Guy (Chris’ friend) and Mike Case. Since our house was a second home for Guy for several years, we felt like he was a part of our family. It was good to see him even if only for a few moments. He lives in the Ottawa area now and doesn’t get back to the Sault very often. We got his telephone number and passed it on to Chris.

Wednesday evening we kept painting until just before services – so we went to Bible study in our paint clothes – partly to illustrate that in certain circumstances being there may be more important than the clothes you are wearing but mostly because we wanted to finish the primer coat on the 2 rooms we were working on.

Wednesday was the 59th wedding anniversary for Richard & Ilse Herzog and it is also Ilse birthday. They brought cakes and other deserts to have a celebration with their church friends. They said this was the European way – and although they have been in Canada for well over 50 years they still retina a lot of their German traditions and heritage.

Anyhow in the past 2 days we have painted 2 classrooms at the church building and Linda has put wallpaper around the top 2 ft of the one room (it has a 10 ft ceiling). We plan to finish the 2 rooms to-day and the doors. I was talking to Russ Ward last evening. He & Mark Seeler are hoping to install some trim on Saturday so we will need to be sure that the trim is painted as well.

Anyhow – while it may not be quite as bad as “watching paint dry" :) :) (humor intended) not a lot of excitement in our lives – although we have experienced that range of “weeping with those that weep” “and “rejoicing with those that rejoice”.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I returned from my trip to Beamsville (near St. Catherines/Niagara Falls) and Toronto last evening. I was traveling with my brother Rob and my Dad. There were 2 purposes for the trip – one was that Rob had an annual checkup for a medical condition that requires consultation with a specialist in Toronto. he was told (what I would guess is the thing you want to hear in a situation like this) “Nothing has changed – come back again next year”.

The second reason was that my youngest sibling – my brother Lawrence turned 50 on Monday and we had a chance to be a part of 2 different birthday celebrations – one Sunday and one Monday. I have some pictures and other details of that that I hope to cover another time.

It was a bit difficult not being home on Mother’s day. Don Smith at Beamsville preached a touching mother's day sermon and that made it more difficult for me to be awy from the mother of my children. Don quoted the passage about "Igo to prepare a pace for you - in my house there are many mansions ,,,: (not an exact quote) which had been one of my mother's favoorite passages and was used at her funeral. This brought tears to my eyes and my Dad was overcome with tears in thinking of here.

Linda was alone for much of the day – she had had a busy week and was looking for a quiet afternoon after doing her class Sunday morning. It was quieter than she expected. Saturday evening I had called to let her know I’d arrived safely at my sister Ruby’s place in Beamsville and in the course of dealing with taking good from the oven she had changed phones and left one of the hook. She didn’t discover it until late afternoon when she decided to call her mother after waiting patiently for a couple of hours for her kids to call.
She said it was quite amazing that she had barely got on the phone with her mother when one after the other of the kids called (we have call waiting so she was able to let them know she was here and then called them back).

I was speaking to Arlene King at services in Beamsville on Sunday morning. Her husband Byron is the son of Jack & Barb King who are part of our church family here in the Sault. Byron drives transport and, when I asked Arlene about him, she said he had called her that morning from the Sault area and that he had had to detour around the scene of a serious accident that had happened early Sunday morning.

When I got back to Ruby’s place I went on the Sootoday site to see if there were any references to this. I discovered that a Sault Ste. Marie police officer had been killed in a horrific collision at one of the major intersections in the city. I got more information on Monday the Sault Star online. This was the first time in the 150 year history of policing in Sault Ste Marie that an officer had been killed in the line of duty.

Of course this event was shocking to us. The Soo is a relatively small town (80,000) and it is rare when these tragic events occur that we don’t know someone who knows someone … who is directly involved. Of course events involving police officers always give us pause because Chris is a policeman. When I arrive d home last evening I was reading more about the accident and we also saw the obituary notice – and discovered 2 connections that brought this event even closer to home.

First he was the brother-in-law of Paula Case. Paula’s husband Mike attends Pine hill and they are the parents of Vanessa (who I had mentioned recently. She has just had a baby and Linda has been providing her some advice). But the stronger connection is that the officer’s brother Guy was Chris’ best friend for several years and was best man at Chris’ wedding. We called Chris to let him know and he was very shaken by it.
This is very much one of those situations that are difficult to understand. The lady driving the other vehicle was intoxicated and has been charged with a number of criminal offences. So we have 2 families whose lives have been turned upside down. The issues of bad choices and innocent choices that lead to this event doesn’t change the reality of the pain that is being felt and the brokenness of the lives involved. We pray that God’s love can be felt and received into healing those hurts.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda-

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why not me?

Seems like I’m down to doing this every other day. Partly because there isn’t that much happening in my life and partly because I’m having problems with my “free” high speed internet – I guess I’ll have to break down and upgrade to something more dependable.

I was also experiencing "car repair" shock -- we had a noise in our front wheel so I took it to Art my long time mechanic. It was a bad wheel bearing and that along with a couple of other things he found ( a battery post that fell apart when they were checking th ecable, and a brake line that "broke when it was touched" added up to a bill that was north of $800. Again I was thankful that these things were discovered in the shop rather than having left me stranded on the highway .

These "fortuitous" discoveries and my “near miss” (this is what the industrial people call a “close call”) when I barely avoided serious injury (Tuesday) and our "alls well that ends well" incident with the BBB on March 29 in San Antonio has had me thinking about how we are thankful that God has protected us – and I am – and I believe he does.

However, I’m more impressed by the faith of those who praise God for his gifts when sudden tragic events cause death or serious injury, when someone has to go through the horrors of serious illnesses, . I am in awe of those who remain strong in their faith and are convinced even in those “bad times” that God is protecting them and holding them in his arms

But it leaves me with a “weird” thought. Why is it that some people seem to be “Teflon coated” and while they may have some “close calls” they avoid the real tragedies. (I’m almost afraid to say this and have an irresistible urge to “knock on wood”) but I feel I fit in this category). I have lived over 60 years – doing a lot of stupid things – and haven’t had so much as a broken bone. The love of my life is similarly blessed and our 3 children and 3 grandchildren have so far escaped any real serious events. Others I know have had multiple accidents, serious crippling illnesses, are wheelchair bound – have had deaths and other tragedies. I know that it isn’t so much about what happens to us here as it is about our relationship with God – but it still raises questions. Most of the discussion and writing deals with “Why do bad things happen to good people?” – My question is “Why do other people of the same (or less) “goodness” escape bad things?”.

I think the best answer to both questions is “I don’t know – God knows and our job is to be thankful and praise him no matter what – and to trust that he will work good from the good and from the bad. I don’t believe that God is “arbitrarily” deciding OK I’ll keep Charlie from harm but I’ll let John suffer – that seems inconsistent with his promises to love us and be merciful. So we all were born with certain DNA and we all have made many life choices that bring us to the point riding behind a truck that backs up or buying a motorhome with a defective ball joint – what is God’s role in that outcome – the best I can come is that he may influence the timing and detailed choices to shape the outcome to allows the most good to occur in his kingdom.

Does this bother anyone else? Am I asking the wrong questions? (Actually I suspect this is also true – finding answers is often based on asking the right questions).

Enough rambling for today.

I’m accompanying my brother to Toronto area this weekend so probably won’t post again until I’m back next Wednesday.

God Bless

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Choices & Consequences (May 8-9)

So far (with one exception – I’ll get to that later) it has been a quiet week doing chores around the house and running errands. Linda has been gone all day helping Tracy with the twins and I’ve been getting a taste of what it must have been like for her when I was away at work all day and she was doing the “keeping the home fires burning” thing.

My Dad called Monday morning and asked me to go golfing with him since it was predicted to be the nicest day of the week. So I was out doing that Monday p.m. – with “Whitfield rules” (several Mulligans and a half dozen “free drops” and lots of “gimmees” on the green) I was under a 100 on 18 holes – but it is an easy course mostly par 3 so that’s still nothing to brag about. Dad still beat me. However, the valuable thing was spending the time with him.

So here’s the “exception” – Ever make a snap decision that turned out to be very stupid in hindsight. Tuesday morning I was riding my bike in to Sandro’s for breakfast with Roger - I was headed for the walkway along the side to chain the bike to a post. As I came in there was a guy parked (parallel with nothing in front of him) along the side blocking the access. I was going to go around the front of the truck when I noticed that he had just gotten in and had started the truck. Thinking he was going to pull forward I swung in behind to go onto to the walkway – You’ve probably guessed – he started backing up. I was yelling loudly – trying to stop and get out of the way – I (and the bike) ended up flat on the ground behind the truck. Fortunately the driver heard my yelling and saw my hands flailing and stopped. The bike wasn't damaged and neither was I but the consequences could have been much worse and I was really thankful to God for protecting me from serious harm.

Anyhow that incident got me wondering about how many times we make similar choices and don’t even realize how much danger we are placing ourselves in because the consequences aren’t immediate or obvious. I think this is especially true in the life choices we make that affect our relationship with God. I hope that a “close call” from a poorly thought out choice will (once again) remind me of the importance of thinking ahead to possible consequences when making choices – and that this is as true of small daily choices -- as it is of the “big” choices about life.

I’m also having some challenges really living by the words of Jesus to “seek the kingdom first and all these things will be given as well” – Part of the problem is that my list of “needed things” is much larger than the “food, clothing & shelter” list that Jesus seems to have been focusing on and part of it is that I really haven’t completely adjusted to the reduced income in retirement – which has been gradual since, for the first 2 years, I had some “residual” income from work and other sources that is no longer there. This is on my mind because my laptop (purchased slightly over 1 year ago) is acting up and our 10 year old car is making noises that require a visit to the garage - both of these things have the potential of destroying my budget for this year. However, I am looking back at the message we heard from Max Lucado about being thankful and I am thankful that I have both a car and a laptop. I am thankful that there hasn’t been catastrophic failures and in the case of the laptop I’m thankful that it has forced me to make a backup CD of the more important files. And (oh how silly I am to compain) I’m thankful that I have a second computer (desktop) to use while the laptop is in the shop. Finally I'm thankful because this is going to force me to move back to my office for the more "heavy duty" work on the computer which will be much better for my health (posture) . I want to say – ohboy another problem – my favorite thing – but I’m not quite there yet.

Have a good week and God Bless

Monday, May 08, 2006

Family ties (May 5-7)

The rest of Friday was uneventful. We went to the church building and took measurements for the rooms. We went to Value Village where Linda looked around for some curtain materials for the classroom we are redecorating and then to the paint store to get pricing for the paint – Sunday I did a preliminary work plan & “budget” estimate for review at the progress update meeting. This week I need to finalize the work plan and get some materials to be ready for Saturday’s work day.

Sharon Valli dropped in for a short visit on her way home from the university. Her husband Pauli has had to work out of town for the past several years and they are counting the days until he can retire in 2 years.

Saturday was fairly cool which was good because I spent most of the day inside - I finished the Powerpoint and notes for our Pascagoula presentation Sunday night. I cleaned up some email. I have a separate account for Algoma University and it was backlogged since I’m not teaching right now I don’t check it every day.

Linda had been talking to her sister-in-law June about the new Robin Williams movie “RV” and she called Saturday asking if we wanted to go out to dinner and then to the movie. We went out to Harmony beach (30 miles north on Hwy 17) to have smelts These are a small fish (4 to 6 inches) are caught in nets at the mouth of rivers as the head upstream to spawn— having an annual feed of fried smelt is a bit of a tradition in the north – although we hadn’t done this for many years. Unfortunately, the batch of smelts we got were “sour” and we ended up having whitefish instead – the movie was funny – how could it not be with Robin Williams in it -- with an theme that promoted personal integrity and family values. Of course the RV “incidents” were extreme but we could relate to many of them from our experiences. We had some great laughs at some of the sequences.

It had been several years since we had been to a movie theatre and many more years since we had spent time with Terry and June other than at Goodmurphy family events.

Sunday morning we went to services. Roger spoke on God’s view of marriage – based on Jesus comments regarding divorce in Matt 5. After service one couple shared their intent to be married in June and invited the congregation to attend. We pray that with God’s help they can build the type of marriage that is “until death do us part”.

Sunday evening we presented our report on our trip to Pascagoula to give the people here some understanding of what the people on the Gulf coast were dealing with. We also shared our belief that this was something of value to us in our faith journey- strengthening our understanding of it being “more blessed to give than receive” and our understanding that the measure of our love for God is demonstrated by loving and having compassion on others in need.

Linda had also told June about our Sunday night presentation while helping her with the twins last week and June had said that maybe she & Terry would come to that. Unfortunately, Linda, at the time they were talking Linda thought we were doing it during the fellowship time at 7:00 following the evening assembly. Because we were out Saturday night and they hadn’t mentioned it Linda thought they wouldn’t come and so we hadn’t let them know it was really at 6. SWouldn't you know .. they showed up at 7 and missed the presentation – we will have them over sometime soon and give them a private viewing. In any case, they were there for lunch and Terry had a chance to visit with some of the people he knows So one consequence of the “twins” has been a chance to get to visit Terry & June more times in the past week that we usually do in a year.

Well its another week – Linda will be busy with the twins and I have a long list of things to do so I need to get at it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Confession is good for the soul?

Linda had a bad day yesterday (Thursday) . She woke up with a severe pain in her upper back (rib cage) – not sure what caused it. Perhaps she stretched a muscle working in the yard on Wednesday. In any case, she was not able to do much all day. She was sufficiently recovered to go and help June (her sister-in-law) baby-sit Tracy’s twins and her 4)year old Riley. She said it was a busytimeeven with the 2of them there. Tracy & Travis went out with some friends to a smelt fry near Harmony (its a Norther thing, eh?)

I know I have a number of bad habits. Habits that are non-productive and harmful to being who I want to be. Yesterday, I ended up going on a “binge” of playing free cell on the computer. It started innocently enough – Linda & I are doing a presentation at the church Sunday night to report on our Katrina work in Pascagoula. Since she wasn’t up for working outside and it was a little cool, I started making up the Powerpoint and wanted some pictures from the INTERNET – but my connection was flaky so this was taking a long time and I thought I would play while waiting. I hit a game that was difficult and I just couldn’t let it go until got it – which took several hours - so the presentation didn’t get done.

I enjoy doing games & puzzles as a means of exercising my brain but when they divert me from doing the things that need to be done it is “not a good thing ”. Linda says I’m addicted to these things and perhaps it is true – at least it allows me to better understand the “loss of control” that causes those with more serious addictions to ruin their health, bodies and relationships in pursuit of some thing – whether it be drugs, alcohol, work, pornography..Regardless of whether it is a mild addiction or just a bad habit the saying is that “confession is good for the soul” so I’m hoping that this disclosure will help me avoid these excesses in the future.

I did spend a couple of hours cleaning up some more leaves—we are getting there ---

In the evening I went and helped my Dad fill in his census form – May 16 is Canadian census day. I discovered that we were “lucky” because we got a short form – Dad had a long form - I guess they randomly do that to get stats on income and other things related to the life patterns of the Canadian population.

Last night I thought “All in all, not much to ‘write home abouttoday’ and told myself – based on the immortal words from ‘Gone with the wind’ -- ‘Tomorrow’s another day’

This morning did get off to a better start – I was up earlier and had some “quiet time” – I finally got at least some of the stuff I wanted for the Katrina presentation and made good progress on that. Linda was feeling much better and we spent sometime planning our day and doing our daily Bible reading .

My friend Russ Ward had called last night wanting to know I he could use my truck to pickup some building materials. He came by around 9:30, we had coffee and talked for a while then made the run to Home depot to get his stuff. It was great to spend some time with him catching up on the things that are going on in his life.
Friday’s are the day that Linda & I call “our day” – we avoid making (many) outside commitments and we look for things to dotogether—today we are going to the church building to do some work on her classroom – removing snowflakes and replacing them with butterflies—and working out more details on our project to paint classrooms before the VBS in June.

Hope you have a great Friday and weekend
God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blog pourri

I am relatively new to this world of writing a (potentially) public journal using a web log or blog . I have a couple of preachers that I can thank (or blame) depending on what you think of this - Roger for suggesting it in the first place and John Dobbs for pointing me to the tools to use and then encouraging me to keep on. I mention this because I like this ability to share both the “mundane” things of day to day living and the (hopefully) more important thoughts I have on how to capture the promise that Jesus made when he said he had come so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:9-11 KJV). However, I'm also not always sure what to include and what to leave behind.

This morning I thought I would have a quick look at a couple of other blogs that I had found through John’s Hope Remains. I dropped in on Mike Cope - and found an interesting commentary (May 2nd post) from a book dealing with a Christian view of Sex, Love & marriage (not necessarily in that order.)

Caution: The rest of these blog references are written by preachers and generally deal with church related topics—particularly aimed at those who are attend “churches of Christ”.

I visited Marvin Phillips and read his report on the Tulsa soulwinning workshop. –Then I went to Gary Kirkendal who I had heard speak when we were in Pascagoula in March. I stumbled into a passionate dialog related to his “At Our Wits End” post for April 27th and the associated comments . I ended up putting in my 50 cents worth. (That’s 2 cents with inflation!!) and then moved onto a related discussion on Danny Dodd’s blog about why preachers abandon their “roots”and move to other groups or become “shoe salesmen” (I also heard Danny speak when we were in Pascagoula) – couldn’t help myself so I weighed in on that discussion as well. This was an interesting (to me) “blog tour”. I’ll have to do it again soon – when I can afford to get “lost in cyperspace” for a couple of hours. Which won’t be for a day or two.—likely more if my partner has any influence and she does!!!

Rest of the day was spent working with Linda in our backyard. We have lots of trees and the leaves from last fall had been used to cover the flower beds – we spent to-day cleaning out and bagging most of these – I have over a dozen full bags of leaves in the garage to haul to dump at the local composting operation tomorrow.

We called and talked to Camdyn because today was REALLY her birthday – we had celebrated early when we were there in April (see post for April 21 or thereabouts)

I did take a break around lunch to do some email while Linda was off visiting Vanessa and “mentoring” her on mothering her new baby.

This evening we went to our Wednesday Bible study and after had coffee at Tim Horton’s with Roger and Sandra - nominally to talk about what was needed to prepare class rooms for the half day” VBS” that is being planned for June. We did cover a few other topics as well!!

Filled the car with gas on the way home and it took $80 –a record!! Wasn’t that long ago that it had to be bone dry to get $40 into it—but we are thankful we have a car to put gas into.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rebuilding bridges

I started my Tuesday today by meeting Roger for breakfast at Sandro’s. We caught up on the happenings in the congregation and talked about a number of the recurring themes related to our roles as “servants” of our Lord. When Linda asks what did you talk about, I’m always at a loss to be able to really figure out why the seemingly small number of tangible results could take so much time & talk –maybe its because I talk too much. (I can hear the chorus of AMEN’s from all who know me ..!!) but maybe it is also that we all need to keep learning and growing in our understanding of what it means to be a Christian -- and talking is one way of helping in that ongoing “renewing of our minds” and “attitudes” which we are called to experience (Romans 12:12; Eph.4:23)

When we were in Mississippi one of the more dramatic things that drove home to us the power of Katrina was viewing the US 90 bridge at Biloxi. You couldn’t help think what a massive effort it would be to repair that bridge. Well we have had a similar experience on a smaller scale with a dental bridge.

Over Christmas Linda had a “bridge failure” . She went to our dentist to have it fixed. He took the impressions, installed a temporary bridge and sent out to have the permanent bridge “constructed". When it came back 2 weeks later it didn’t fit -- so he had to try again. Since we had been planning to leave for Mississippi as soon as the dental work was complete this also meant that we had to delay our trip.

Well believe it or not the second bridge didn’t fit either so Linda had to again (3rd time!!) undergo the discomfort of the whole routine (freezing, having your mouth propped open for hours on end..etc..) of making a new impression . Because we wanted to leave for 2 months the dentist made a specially reinforced temporary bridge and said it “should be OK” for the 2 months we planned to be on the road. The good news is that it did hold and we arrived home with it intact.

However, the problems with the permanent repair are not over. When we got home we discovered that our dentist George Shunoch had been hospitalized. However, his partner was available to install the bridge. So Linda went in Tuesday afternoon and – incredible as it may seem it still DID NOT fit. So she has now gone through the impression process for a 4th time -- We are starting to think that we thought was a relatively straightforward (albeit costly) repair is going to take a much time as fixing that bridge at Biloxi!!!

I serve as a volunteer on a number of community & economic development groups in Sault Ste Marie and I had a meeting with one committee today to review a plan for economic growth through Information technology businesses and applications within the community. As usual there is a lot of discussion and debate—that often seems disjointed and of little value but -- it seems that in order to mine out a few nuggets there has to be a lot of sifting through the dross. I’m hopeful that the plan will move ahead and create needed growth in this community.

I mentioned before that Linda was providing some “mentoring” and hands on helpfor her niece who had twins while we were away. She had a call from Vanessa who is a young lady who had here 1st baby about a month ago and is going to see her to day to help her. She has been in touch with another niece Jessica wh also had her 1st baby on the weekend – so she is being kept busy.

The rest of my day was consumed by small things - blowing of the driveway and sidewalk, continuing to clean up household business and email.

One thing I did wast ake some pictures of the ball joint that broke while we were in San Antonio (see March 29-30 posts). (For a size reference the nut is sittinng on the topof a 2 inch tape measure -- the whole part is about 4 inches long ).Iamintending tocontact GM not some much about liability since at the end the costs weren't that high but moretodealwiththe possibilitythat this was one of a defectivebatch that may be a an "accident waiting to happen". It still seems incredible that something like that happened and there is no doubt in my mind that God had a hand in the timing so we got through it without anyone being hurt.

I also downloaded some pictures that Sarah had sent us of Will taken over the last couple of months --IMHO and unbiased of course he is one of the 3 best grandkids in the world.

I’ll close with the thought that the problems Linda is experiencing with her bridge repair is perhaps a metaphor for our lives and the challenges we have in (re)building the bridges of relationships with others.

The storms of life and our own selfishness so often mean that our efforts to build and rebuild relationships fail. When it is something visible and physical that needs fixing we usually keep at it and find a way to do it. Why is it that we sometimes give up so easily on the much more important human relationships in our lives?

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday, Monday –

I started this morning by revamping the blog – changing thetitle and updating the profile because it is “morphing” from a record of our trip to an ongoing description of our journey of life & faith.

At 8:30 the phone rang and it was Linda’s sister-in-law June. She has been helping her daughter Tracy with the twins (see yesterday’s posting) but she had to go home and wanted to know if Linda could help out for a couple of hours. You can guess that it didn’t take long for her to say yes so she left around 9 to do that.

I got an email from John Dobbs about a”POD cast” he has started for his sermons – you can listen by clicking HERE -- so I listened to his lesson from yesterday. While doing that I did sme “GOOGLing” about Vacation Bible Schols and sent a note off to Sharon Seeler about some of the things I found.

I spent the rest of the morning doing catchup work on our household accounts and other “paperwork”.

Around noon I l went out to do some banking and then to the bowling alley. I had been bowling in a senior’s league before leaving in Februaryand this was the wrap-up session – just bowling for fun with a pot luck lunch following.

My Dad who will be 90 next January is the oldest bowler in the league – he bowls Wednesdays and Fridays as well -- – too much for me --I found it hard to to do one day.

When I got home Linda was out again at CURVES so I continued working on the household books until she got home.

We are spending a quiet evening at home so not much to talk about – Mondays tend to be like that -- and maybe Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well --

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Changing gears

So here we are back home. Our grandson Will – when we were there at Christmas took to saying “What’s next Gramma?” –so Linda and I have adopted that as a way of getting us to relax a little when we are getting uptight because we are wrapping up one project and it seems that we may have a “challenge” in deciding what to do -- so “What’s next?” – That’s the question of the day and it still doesn’t have an answer.

We have been busy this week and will be busy for several more days just setting things in order – but neither of us want to get so tied up with the business of daily living that there is nothing left for serving God by serving others.

Last evening Roger and Sandra asked us for supper Roger is the preacher at the Pinehill church where we attend. We had a great meal and then we showed some of the pictures we had and talked about our experience at Pascagoula. Next Sunday night at our monthly Sunday evening gathering* Linda & I will be telling our story about the Katrina recovery work in Pascagoula. (*The remaining Sundays in the month we meet in small groups at various places and times)

Jack & Barb King were there as well. Jack & Barb had just been at the funeral of a the 4 year old son of their grandniece – he died very suddenly due to heart failure from an undetected congenital defect. As always it is hard to understand why these things happen – everyone involved has to deal with these questions in their own way and we can only pray that they will find their answers by trusting in God to work good from this tragic loss.

This morning before services I was reading John Dobbs "Hope remains" blog. He was sharing the fact that they were running out of supplies and volunteers. And that they are running out of steam. Those of us who have gone to help but have had the ability to return home tour comfortable lives are doubly blessed. Once through the ability to help (It is more blessed to give than receive) and again by the increased awareness of how much we have to be thankful for in our lives).

One person commenting on John’ blog said that they likened the area devastated by the hurricane to a grandchild. When it gets messy or you get tired you can turn them over to their parents and come home.

I hope that those who have to live with the reality of the “Katrina effect” can stay the course – keep on keeping on and continue to show God’s love in those hurting communities.

It was good to be back at Pine Hill this morning. One of the first people we saw upon arriving was Grace Sloss. Grace had suffered a knee injury and had been housebound for a couple of months before we left and I think this was one of the first times she had been able to make it out to services. The lady on the right is Verna Ray who had given Grace a ride. Verna's daughter Erin Hallam is undergoing treatment for cancer and has been on our prayer list for several months.

There were lots of hugs and smiles as we met and greeted all of our friends here.

I want to mention Karen Morin -- she prepares the bulletin for Pinehill and was gracious enough to email us the news portion each week which helped us keep up withour church family here while we were on the road. Karen's husband Rene is beside her. My brotherRob and Jack & Barb King are in the background of this picture.

I tried to take a picture of the congregation after the closing prayer but it was too washed out to use it. Our building has large windows at the rear and when it is sunny (as it was today) it is very difficult to take a picture from the front of the auditorium. When our son Chris was married there a lot of my video was washed out for the same reason. I’ll try again when it is cloudy so I can have a picture to post.

We went for a walk this afternoon and saw Linda's niece Tracy who had twins on April 13th. Linda was overjoyed that we saw her outin her neighbors driveway because she got to hold these precious new babies - Aiden and Olivia --

We called and talked to David & Elaine Kilbern this afternoon to let them know we were home and to ask how they were holding up. They have been a bit under the weather but had really enjoyed a couple of days away for their 37th anniversary. They were also looking forward to the coming week since they are (for the first time since August 29) shutting down the relief operation for a week. No meals to cook, no interviews and filling out of work orders, no volunteers to dispatch – some time to unwind and recharge – they deserve it and I’m sure in many ways the work will benefit as they return next week with a renewed zeal and passion for “being the best friend their community ever had”. May God bless these dear brothers and sisters in their walk of faith.

We attended our LIFE group study on “The Barnabas factor” followed by an organizational meeting for a Saturday –morning “activities day” for children and youth. (A ”trimmed down” Vacation Bible school- but we would like to find a better name that more reflects the desire to provide Bible lessons in a positive fun way) . This is being spearheaded by Sharon & Mark Seeler. They moved here from Atlanta last fall and are a real encouragement to the church here. Sharon’s parents live in Dapne Alabama so she was able to give us some idea of what we would find when we were making our plans to go to Pascagoula.

I had said I wanted to summarize what we learned from this journey – but maybe I’m a slow learner because it doesn’t seem to have jelled yet. One thing I know is that I am more than ever convinced of the truth of Gen 1:1 –“In the beginning God.. “ God is in control of this universe – I don’t mean by that that I think God is sitting there (an oxymoron since an omnipresent being is NOT “there” in some place but is somehow everywhere in everyplace) pulling levers deciding each day who he will zap with a hurricane or with illness (or with a broken ball joint for that matter – see my posting for March 29) . It seems to me when it says that God rested after he created this “good” creation that the laws of nature and the choice of Adam’s descendents have more to do with what happens to us than a “capricious” choice by God - but I don’t want to get into this type of philosophical debates that tend to be abut people trying to mold God into their image rather than recognizing and responding to the fact that humans were created in the image of God. I do believe, however: that he can intervene in the chain of events to prevent tragic outcomes or to help us work good and find good when tragedy does touch our lives. I say I’m convinced of this for many reasons—the incredible power of a Katrina – the ability of people to who are themselves hurting to sacrificially give of themselves to help others, the beauty of nature – the night sky, the flowers, the butterflies. We have taught all our grandchildren the “Butterfly” song that ends with the lines “Now I can’t make a butterfly- not even if I try—only God in heaven can make a butterfly” – I know there are many in this world who believe differently but it is a question of faith – what are you going to accept based on the evidence—to me there is only one answer. For anyone who is seeking the answer to this “big” question there are 3 sources that I have found helpful.

John Clayton- a former atheist in his youth - has dedicated his life to the “Does God Exist?”. Program. John deals with a rational logical comparison of various explanations for the universe - those that involve God and those that deny God -- and concludes that the more rational choice is “God” – not random chance acting on pre-existing energy.

Ravi Zacharias – Can a Man live without God?. Prof. Zacharias is a critical thinker and scholar who uses a philosophical arguments and logic to show that the existence of God and the truth of Jesus are the only valid basis for a accepting a moral standard

Phillip Yancy’s “Reaching for the Invisible God” - Yancy deals with “inside out” approach. He starts with a belief in God and then deals with the struggle that soften Christians may feel like they have lost sight of God – that he is no longer there.

The books and discussions on this topic are endless and likely beyond what any one person could read and digest in a lifetime so others might well have different – perhaps even better -- sources to address these questions—for me I’m content to move out in the strength of my conviction that :God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him: (Hebrews 11:6)

Well – it is now after midnight –I’ll close for now. I have had some support for continuing this – but it will now before a different purpose. When I started the main purpose was to keep friends and family informed of our whereabouts and activities. While I will continue to record “what’s happening in our lives” –I have found this to be a useful thing for myself – putting my thinking in writing and maybe once in a while getting some push back or affirmation from someone else. If you are reading God bless you and thank you for staying with it.

One other thing – it is Charlie who is the “I” in this blog. My life partner and wife Linda makes up the “we”. I usually know when I can express something as “we” and when it is really ”I” but occasionally Linda may disagree so to be safe if it is something “weird” that “we” think – it probably is just me. You should blame for the weirdness.

God Bless
Charlie &Linda